I don't get the purpose of Boss run-ups in modern games

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Humanity

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By "Boss run-up" I am specifically referring to the act of having to run through several parts of a level to a boss after dying instead of simply having a checkpoint at the boss battle.

I'm not quite sure how far back this trend dates, but the first real time I remember experiencing it was in Demons Souls and subsequently all the later entries. Currently I'm playing Hollow Knight and it also features this mechanic. There are benches where you sit and save your progress/respawn, and then all the boss fights are located several screens away. I thankfully haven't died all that many times to the bosses, but one encounter with a "sub boss" took me around 10 tries or so and I kept getting aggravated a lot more by having to traverse the same set of rooms just to get to the fight than the actual fight itself (which was also kind of annoying). The more I think about it the more I don't really see any reason for this design choice. What is it supposed to accomplish? I suppose if you could just restart right at the boss or boss-door each time it would take a lot faster to figure out the moveset and move on. But is that it? Is the entire purpose just to prolong the game time because you're pulled out of your rhythm and have to run back to the boss?

A lot of modern design choices I get and I'm happy with but this one I just don't like. As an adult whose game-playing time is systematically shrinking due to "life" any part of a game that makes me waste time is a nuisance.

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Teddie

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It's real fuckin' weird, because it was a problem in tons of games when I was a kid, but they already started solving it in the PS2 era by putting save points or checkpoints in front of bosses. Now it's back in vogue, and the only reason I can think of is to add tension so you don't throw yourself at it and brute force it.

The problem with that is, it only works when you don't fail. The second you realize you have to run back there after dying, the tension is gone. It works once.

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BoOzak

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To add tension? It's the same reason it's always been, a boss in a videogame is generally a finale to a level or the game itself. I've beaten older games that I struggled with as a kid using save states in emulators and felt nothing because there was no tension, I didnt earn it. It's the same with a souls game or hollow knight, the extra challenge results in a more satisfying win.

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Pezen

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#4  Edited By Pezen  Online

@boozak: There’s a fine line though between adding tension and completely ruining an experience. I have stopped playing Control several times because I messed up and died and as I respawned and it was clear how much work it was to get back to where I was I felt more tired than excited.

Also, for me at least, the tension of a boss is in the boss fight itself. Not whatever fodder enemies were before trying to eat up my limited supply of health potions or whatever.

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BoOzak

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@pezen: Some games do it better than others. Control is a game that probably could have used a checkpoint system.

Personally I didnt find any of the challenge in that game rewarding as my main means of death were getting hit off-screen and falling off ledges. So when I did beat a boss or whatever my response was, 'Hey! Nothing shitty happend, Great!'.

(I enjoyed that game but it's mechanically shallow, for as much as Dan and the GB crew condemn "style over substance" Control is the personification of that)

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Epidehl

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#6  Edited By Epidehl

This is probably the biggest reason I don't enjoy the souls games. I don't mind hard games, but permanently losing items you used (and having to grind for them again, or just straight up losing them) and having to run through a bunch of garbage to fight a boss just feels tedious and arbitrary. If I was able to just retry bosses, I would actually have fun with them, especially considering how quickly shit can go sideways in those games.

Notably, I didn't find this to be a problem in Hollow Knight, possibly because getting around in that game is just way faster/fun in itself. Couldn't really say.

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nutter

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It depends on the game. Investment, immersion, tension...I can think of a lot of reasons why someone would want that.

I don’t have time, these days, so it mostly annoys me.

I squeeze in maybe 1-2 hours of games a week. Spending 5 minutes getting back to a boss a few times really adds up.

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Humanity

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@boozak: I mean yah I get tension but that is a really lopsided trade off. As mentioned above the tension only happens once - then every subsequent run-up is just a nuisance. There’s no tension the third time you’re running past the 5 skeletons along the way, and sometimes you will get hit on the way to the boss because you’re now getting impatient causing you to go back to the save spot so you don’t want precious heals during the run up.

It’s a really bad trade of one moment of tension and then increasing frustration.

If every souls game had a bonfire right in front of a boss gate I don’t think those games would be any worse for it. They already have numerous moments of tension and investment as you make your way to the boss, exploring the unknown and making that trade of “go deeper or head back?” Letting you rest and take on a boss with fresh health and the comfort of knowing you can retry then and there isn’t such a bad immersion breaking thing to me.

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gunflame88

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I've not played Hollow Knight, but in Souls games this isn't really a big issue. If you carefully explore the world, look for shortcuts, and learn how to avoid enemies, you can get from a bonfire to the vast majority of bosses without trouble in less than a minute, if that. Optimizing your approach and overcoming adversity with more than just pure combat skill is part of the appeal of those games.

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The_Nubster

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All depends on the game. In Souls games, gradually becoming better at running to the boss and skipping the enemies leads to a single-minded fervor to kill that boss, and succeeding in doing so is extremely cathartic.

In Hollow Knight, though, the Souls-like elements like a benches just don't work because losing your Geo isn't a huge deal and getting the body back is generally pretty easy. On top of that, the act of traversal doesn't get fun until the final 10% of the game, so movement through the world isn't rewarding in and of itself. That game would have benefited from a regular checkpointing system.

All depends on the game.

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liquiddragon

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#11  Edited By liquiddragon  Online

Is the pendulum swinging back? Are From games back to being uncool again? I can't wait to find out how many ppl liked Souls game and how many just pretended to. Am I jaded?

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Efesell

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I think there's something to the idea that a part of the challenge associated with a boss fight is how well you pull off the journey to the boss itself, assuming there are appropriate obstacles in between the two.

If it's just a matter of time traveling point A to B then yeah that's kinda meaningless to me.

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inevpatoria

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There was something novel to it when the Demon Souls and Dark Souls first started toying with the concept. At the time, it was a reminder to breathe and study your enemy's tactics. Like, "I had to fight through all that just to make it here, so I'd better make this boss encounter count."

But now, games like Dark Souls III and Sekiro stack long run-ups on top of multi-stage boss fights. Modern "Souls" games more overtly try to disrupt the player's boss-learning process. When it's so blatant and artificial, it gets really tiring.

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MerxWorx01

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I don't have a great answer for this but for me it turns the distance between the checkpoint and the boss door as a short speed run. It becomes a mini game in which I figure out the shortest path, how much of my stamina should I use and when should I use it. Which enemies I can safely run around and which I might need to dodge past. In some ways in the language of punishing a player for failure it can be both a way to encourage a player to clear their head(sort of a palate cleanser) and to also tell the player to "avoid making this run again and finish the boss off".

Of course at the same time a check point at the boss door is always a welcome sight.

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BoOzak

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#15  Edited By BoOzak

@humanity: I disagree with the notion that it "only works once" the tension comes from the fear of losing which results in having to get back to the boss. Without the fear there is less tension. You might argue that it's a waste of time and the boss should be the only source of tension but I think it's a cumulative effect resulting in a bigger payoff.

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militantfreudian

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I didn't play Hollow Knight for long, so I can't comment on that game in particular. With earlier Souls games, though, I think the intent was that by going through the level you accumulate more of the currency, which in turn, pile up inside the boss arena. It makes the trek to the boss a tense experience in and of itself.

I don't mind – in fact, often I enjoy – backtracking in games with worlds that have a good sense of place and that reward gaining mastery over the environment. Avoiding traps and enemy ambushes, learning how to deal with enemies more efficiently, and planning the fastest and safest routes to a boss felt satisfying in those games.

The infrequent "checkpointing" was kind of a novelty, a throwback to older games. I enjoyed it then, but I don't think every Souls-like game should make getting to a boss or traversing a time-consuming process, especially if it can't make it an engaging one.

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Gundato

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Done correctly, it can really add a lot to the atmosphere/vibe of the boss and even the challenge. A few examples are:

  1. Smough and Ornstein in Dark Souls. Until you figure out the shortcuts it is a horrible slog that leads to the first real wake-up call battle of the game (arguably series and genre). Before you understand the shortcut it makes everything seem completely unsurmountable and pretty much forces you to summon an ally (if only because you WILL be invaded). Once you learn the shortcut it teaches you the flow of the genre as you need to dodge enemies and time things.
  2. Sekiro's first (?) spear fight. You have a quick jog down an alley where you may assassinate a few enemies or just run past them. But the room has two (three?) enemies you need to deal with and pick off. Either you charge head in and shit gets epic and you learn to start watching multiple enemies for what kind of defensive move to use or you learn to pick people off one at a time before starting the fight. Both go to make this boss seem truly hellish and to make you feel so much better once you start fighting them normally AND makes you love the thrust-counter to the point of realizing you need to use that for every fucking boss in the game.
  3. Gwyn, Lord of Cinders in Dark Souls. You have a gorgeous walk up where you make a bunch of Black Knights your bitch. And then you find this mythical being who is a mere shade of who he once was. On NG he is nothing, but the build up makes it feel like the culmination of a journey and the realization of just how much linking the fire has done to him.

And for some horribly bad examples that ruin the fights and even games

  1. Titan Souls (?), the top-down-ish game where you fight a bunch of bosses with nothing but a bow, a single arrow, and a dodge roll. A slow plodding walk through doors to go fight a boss where you die in a single hit. I have never beaten a single boss in that game and I never will because it just wastes my time
  2. A LOT of Sekiro fights, but the drunken ogre (?) comes to mind as the one that made me realize how much I actually dislike that game. A long walk full of enemies that chase you for way too long leading up to a big boss arena where you need to pick off way too many enemies one by one before starting a pretty hefty boss who has poison (?) and does a lot of damage. The only redeeming quality is that you'll probably kill enough people to recharge your respawns.
  3. A decent number of Demon Souls bosses. Most have enough shortcuts that you shouldn't have to do much between the bonfire and the boss fight. But far too many of them lead more to a feeling of "Fuck it , I am just gonna use magic because I don't want to walk here again"

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Stephen_Von_Cloud

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That's a silly modern gamer way to view a challenge. It's just a gauntlet.

In the Souls games there's a reason I actually usually yell out and jump out of my chair when I beat a boss and yeah finish the run before it. It works. And if it bothers you that much there are lots of games that checkpoint all the time and are basically a cake walk.

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Onemanarmyy

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#19  Edited By Onemanarmyy

Elegant gamedesign? 'in our game, you will only rest and spawn at bonfires / benches / Metroid savepoints.' Spawning at a bossdoor is convenient, but it breaks that rule. They could place a bonfire next to every fogdoor but that would make the world feel very mechanical, which is the opposite of what games like Dark Souls want to do. So you often get bonfires at places that are sort of nearby fogdoors but not right next to it. Axiom Verge is a game that chose convenience instead, making bossdoors red & placing a savepoint in the room next to it at all times.

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Humanity

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#20  Edited By Humanity

@onemanarmyy: They could give you a bonfire before the boss and retain the exact same elegance. I find it surprising to see so many people defend this as good design. I understand the idea behind placing the checkpoint further away from the boss. It is an added bit of difficulty to run to the boss. This is not lost on me. But in reality, how many of us are actually challenged by this "gauntlet" on subsequent run backs? At a certain point it becomes a purely mechanical pattern of "run, sprint past these two guys, dodge, left, left, right ..ok spam fog gate." There is no immersion at this point, you aren't in suspense of whats around the corner. If anything it is anything but immersive or elegant as you begin to memorize where each enemy is and just shrug them off because it's a waste of time to even engage. It's like a chore to do before you can get back to the game proper.

Like I understand where a large majority of people here are coming from. It is the same mindset that divided gamers on Red Dead 2 to a small degree - the immersion of your actions compared to the practicality of the gameplay. I actually liked RDR2 quite a bit and I wasn't really bothered by any of the long winded animations and such because I do think they added something to the gameplay. It would have been a completely different experience if you pressed the loot button and the gold just disappeared off the ground. I've also played every single Souls game and like them quite a lot - probably Bloodborne the most of the bunch. There is an unmistakable high as you're fumbling through the levels wondering when you'll encounter the next resting point and should you keep heading forward as your healing items start dwindling and you're increasingly distancing yourself from the last respawn point. I get that. At the same time, when you're fighting the same boss for the 4th or 5th time, I don't think anyone can honestly say they are living the same thrill of running up to the encounter as they did when they first discovered it. You are excited or angry or jacked up to take on the challenge again yah, but the run-up is just a mindless interim at this point before getting on with it.

Control as much as I liked it is probably the biggest offender in this case, not really offering any logical or elegant explanation for why they choose to not checkpoint bosses when there are checkpoints in other places in the game.

I guess as I grow older I begin to have less tolerance for superlative elements in games. I will continue to play Soul games and enjoy the various difficulty spikes in them. The exploration and level design is always a great highlight. At the same time I think it's fine to be critical of elements that don't add anything and in the long run are more or less wasting your time.

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BladeOfCreation

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Yeah, I remember this from the little time I played in Souls games and I'm not a dan of it. Having to redo boss fights is already a pain. Having to run through the same areas again and again to do those boss fights just adds tedium and frustration and doesn't make the experience any more fun.

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Sombre

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Gamers these days think "game length=quality=value for money", so developers pad out their games with absolute bollocks for the sake of "immersion", when what it really means is "You spent 20% of your game doing the same thing, or watching some dumb animation"

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Efesell

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@sombre: Okay but don't "these days" this. You are describing a super old mentality that was way more prevalent in earlier generations.

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Sombre

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@efesell said:

@sombre: Okay but don't "these days" this. You are describing a super old mentality that was way more prevalent in earlier generations.

Maybe I just associate it more with nowadays cause I hear all this "Well I don't think I wanna spend 20 bucks on a 2 hour game" mentality thrown around. I think it's the internet exposing me to it

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Ares42

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Sometimes it's nice to have a little lull before the storm. While there certainly are games where you just wanna go again asap, having some time to breathe, calm down and rethink things can in some cases make the experience much more enjoyable. I'm currently playing Classic WoW and a wipe on a boss can often mean 5-10+ minutes just walking back, re-buffing etc etc, and it works really well with the general design of the game.

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BigSocrates

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It adds tension as others have said, but not the kind of tension that comes from challenge, the kind of tension that comes from punishment. It's similar to how older games used to give you a game over and make you replay from the start if you lost all your lives. In these games if you die to a boss the game punishes you by wasting a chunk of your time, and that makes close battles more thrilling because you don't only get the thrill of defeating a challenge but the relief of knowing you don't need to replay that boring section for the 15th time.

People have said this only works the first time but I actually think it becomes more effective when you are closer to beating the boss, and especially as you get more and more sick of playing the same section over and over and over. It is just a pain in the ass when you are learning a boss because your learning process is interrupted, but once you are competitive it adds to the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Now personally? I hate this mechanic. I don't like being punished in games (real life is punishing enough) and like a lot of people here I hate having my time wasted. You have to be the kind of person who obsesses over specific games or just has a lot of time to play games to really engage with this. If you're playing 20+ hours a week this is not so bad, but if you only have a few hours of playtime a week it really sucks to have a bunch of it drained away in boredom and frustration. Some players really do like the added tension and I don't know how they could get that feeling without a similar punishment mechanic of some kind.

It's a matter of taste. I don't like it. You may not like it. But it's a legitimate design choice that serves a legitimate purpose.

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Humanity

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@bigsocrates: Isn't the legitimate purpose in this case.. wasting your time? Cause that is not a design choice I would want developers to perpetuate in any degree.

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BigSocrates

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@humanity: I would say the legitimate purpose is giving the encounter stakes, which in video games often comes down to slowing or speeding your progression. When games used to give you a limited number of lives and then force you to play from the beginning of the level (or sometimes even the game!) when you ran out, was that a bad thing? Most developers have abandoned that because it did waste people's time, but some still use it and it's not necessarily a worthless mechanic.

Similarly when you lose your souls in Dark Souls that is also penalizing you in the time you spent grinding them, so it's just another form of the same mechanic, but it adds tension to the game because you don't want to lose the stuff you worked for (just like you don't want to lose the progress you made in getting to the boss.)

As I said, I don't personally really like this, but how else are they supposed to add real stakes to the encounter? They can't cost you money (or at least they shouldn't, and that would be much worse.) They can't cause you physical pain. The only way they can actually penalize you for failure in a real way that gives things real world stakes is by penalizing you time.

I understand why you don't like it, but there are gamers out there who complain when everything is checkpointed because they feel like encounters have no real stakes then, so I think it's just a matter of taste. Some people like the added tension and stakes, others value their time more and don't want it wasted, but either way is understandable to me.

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Humanity

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@bigsocrates: Well I understand everything you said, but my continued argument against this as I've written before, is that the stakes aren't really significantly raised. I can't think of a single bonfire run where I was being challenged to get to the boss - they are just added steps to an encounter. In Souls games especially it is extremely easy to bypass all enemies by simply running through an area. You typically don't do this because you are exploring, and want to clear each place out to see if there isn't a hidden shortcut anywhere or if you didn't miss a valuable item. On boss run-backs this is not the case, and you just sprint forward - no stakes, no tension, just tedium. This isn't the same case as starting over when you lose all your lives because you aren't kicked back to the beginning of the entire zone.

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Efesell

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#30  Edited By Efesell

Depends a lot on the game as well. I recently finished up Indivisible which is a game with zero stakes or penalty at any point. If you die platforming or if you die in a battle you snap back to your last checkpoint immediately which is often like a screen away at most. It works really well because it's the sort of game you want to just keep moving along in.

But if challenge or difficulty is the actual selling point then something like quickly undermines the whole ordeal. You need something in place to prevent you from realizing that without some manner of downside to recklessness you can just brute force every problem.

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devise22

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@humanity: Is it always about the stakes/challenge though?

One of the things that has been brought up constantly in this thread, is that sense of journey/exploration one gets when looking for bon fires/checkpoint spots, and the risk/reward management of the playthrough up until they find a boss. Yet the threads OP and much of the argument has revolved around the actual "challenge" of these checkpoints once you've discovered the boss location.

Doesn't that completely dismiss the actual reason for these bonfires/non linear checkpoints? It's not about challenge. Sure you can boss run and dodge the enemies or grind after you've died. But it's about that initial moment of risk/reward and discovery. That's it. The fact that you can boss run to it after the fact it's just for convenience for the crowd that wants something more linear/less abstract. But the actual initial point is to allow them to leverage far more interesting worldbuilding and overall game design. When you play a standard, linear, story game. Your worry of death is only to stall progress. If you die, you get auto checkpointed to the most convenient location. As such games of that nature are all about forward progression, so anything interrupting that forward progression comes across as exceptionally jarring.

Games, like the Souls for example, ditch the concept of perpetual forward progression in the traditional sense to allow the players to progress as they play at whatever pace they feel. Getting stuck in early areas of those games, and not knowing what is coming next lends to sense of discovery and pacing of the game. I can't just go the direction the game is telling me to go and head to a checkpoint. The game is telling me to go in lots of directions, giving me tons of options and so what I found a bonfire, it doesn't signal a boss or anything else nearby. Only a brief respite and a moment to start in a new place, with new stuff to discover.

Like your not entirely wrong, once you've discovered what is what and where to go those bonfires are nothing more than time consumers as you try to get in another boss run. But I think Sekiro with it's respawn mechanics show they are trying to give that some thought. I think ultimately though what your complaining about is a consequence of their more open ended world design. If a checkpoint always comes before something important or at the most convenient time, it's so easy as the player to look up and go "oh look it auto saved, must be a boss coming up." That's lame, it's lazy, and it's 2008 game design imo. We are way past that. I think that type of stuff works for very narrative based games that are trying to imitate that movie like pacing, say an Uncharted. But for open world games, I want to get lost and confused. If i'm just doing the same motions I've done in a million other games, interacting with the same systems and getting the same signals/cues, it loses a bunch of it's luster imo.

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Justin258

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It's one of those things that otherwise-good game developers are taking from the Souls games without really thinking hard about why they're implementing it. On paper, Dark Souls has a lot of ideas that sound like "game design we've moved past", which is part of why the series was so refreshing. On the other hand, popular games moved past obtuse, obscure, and aggravating game design conventions for a very good reason - don't implement them unless you know exactly what you're doing.

In the case of Dark Souls, good knowledge of the game's level design and enemy placement allows you to get through almost all of the series's boss runs in less than a minute, making them actually kinda trivial. This isn't true for all of them, all three of the games have an exception to this rule, but for the most part if you know your way to a boss, the boss run isn't really much of a problem.

Generally, however, I'd rather games put checkpoints outside of difficult boss rooms. There's nothing wrong with signalling that a boss is coming, it doesn't ruin anything about the game, and it lets me prepare before losing half an hour of progress because I didn't know some big-ass motherfucker was hiding in this particular room in this particular corner.

@devise22 Wouldn't a hidden checkpoint keep that sense of discovery without making you do a boss run over and over? "Oh, damn, you died, would you like to retry this boss or return to the last bonfire equivalent?" That way, the game doesn't have the "2008-ness" that you're talking about but it would still keep the convenience that @humanity and some others in this thread are looking for.

While we're at this whole complaining about mechanics taken from Dark Souls without good reason thing, please stop implementing corpse runs and never, ever implement a system where the items you burned stay burned after you die and come back. I never beat Bloodborne partially because of the low framerate and partially because I'm just not prepared to go grinding out blood vials because I died to some boss fifteen times in a row. Stop fiddling with death systems in general, actually, just bring me back to the last checkpoint in normal generic fashion and innovate somewhere else.

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BigSocrates

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@humanity: You did not understand what I said.

The challenge and stakes are raised DURING the boss fight. While you fight the boss you are thinking "I hope this POS doesn't kill me because then I have to do that boring runback for the fifth time" and it raises the tension.

During the runback there's no stakes and no tension because you are being punished for failing. If it was fun or exciting it would undermine the point of the punishment. It's a mechanic that basically puts you in time out for a little while until you can get back to the boss fight again, but more subtle.

It's similar to how old MMORPGs often punish you for dying by taking away XP or gold. Those things took time to grind so losing them sucks, which in turn makes the fights more stressful and raises the stakes. You don't want to lose a level. You don't want to lose gold you were saving for a mount. You don't want to have to do a boring runback. All those things make the boss encounter itself higher stakes.

It's not about the runback, it's about the boss fight itself. The runback is the punishment.

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Humanity

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@bigsocrates: I guess despite liking a lot of games that use this mechanic I just fundamentally disagree with it's implementation, and to a lesser degree am finding it surprising to see it defended when at the end of the day it is an arbitrary layer of punishment. You already lose experience, and you lose time in having to re-do the boss fight again, having to lose time additionally by being force through a boring run-back seems like a step too far.

But I got a decent amount of responses here which is always great because you get to see various people see the same issue in a completely different light. Also it appears that I am in the minority in thinking that this mechanic doesn't need to be in the game which also answers the question of why it continues to be in games since so many folk out there appreciate it, so hey two birds with one stone!

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BigSocrates

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@humanity: Hey man, I agree with you in that I don't like that mechanic either. I have enough incentive not to lose to a boss because I just hate losing, and I don't enjoy games punishing me. That's one of the reasons I don't play the Dark Souls series even though a lot about that series appeals to me. I got pissed at Yooka-Laylee because the end boss doesn't checkpoint between phases and I found replaying the earlier phases really boring after a while. If that game had forced me to spend 5 minutes running back to fight the boss each time I might have quit without finishing.

I agree with you that it's a mechanic I don't like but that some people do. I think a lot of developers tend to be obsessive types who like this mechanic so it sometimes appears in games that it really doesn't 'need' to be in (obviously it doesn't actually need to be in any games, but games that aren't necessarily going for punishment in the way the Souls series is.)

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I never beat Bloodborne partially because of the low framerate and partially because I'm just not prepared to go grinding out blood vials because I died to some boss fifteen times in a row. Stop fiddling with death systems in general, actually, just bring me back to the last checkpoint in normal generic fashion and innovate somewhere else.

Literally the exact same experience I had. Blood Vials + other consumables (thrown items, those elemental buffs) being "used up" if you lose a fight is such an unnecessary thing. It means that after losing, the fight is now HARDER which just seems counter intuitive and also just makes the normal "I'll save these items until I REALLY need them" that a lot of RPGs have and just makes them so much worse.

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@epidehl said:
@justin258 said:

I never beat Bloodborne partially because of the low framerate and partially because I'm just not prepared to go grinding out blood vials because I died to some boss fifteen times in a row. Stop fiddling with death systems in general, actually, just bring me back to the last checkpoint in normal generic fashion and innovate somewhere else.

Literally the exact same experience I had. Blood Vials + other consumables (thrown items, those elemental buffs) being "used up" if you lose a fight is such an unnecessary thing. It means that after losing, the fight is now HARDER which just seems counter intuitive and also just makes the normal "I'll save these items until I REALLY need them" that a lot of RPGs have and just makes them so much worse.

I was always of two minds about this with Bloodborne. On one hand, it's really obvious how Blood Vials create a more tedious experience. When you run out, you have to farm enemies or spend your hard-earned currency on more. On the other, once you get really good at navigating the game's levels and managing the game's enemies, Blood Vials allow you to stay on runs indefinitely, since you're only using the vials when you need them and can harvest them from enemies on the go. In Dark Souls, the only way to replenish your healing items is to hit a bonfire, leaving you somewhat handcuffed even after your skill outmatches the game's challenge.

I'm totally in agreement with everyone on the Blood Vials vs Estus debate for the most part, especially for players who, like me, generally only play these From Software games once through. Having to manage finite consumables is an unnecessary burden. Bloodborne was my exception, and in really sinking my teeth into the game I began to see the upside to the system From had built.